Is this national soother month or what? I have received more emails on soothers in the last 4 weeks than in all the years I’ve been at this! I took this as a divine signal to write up some thoughts on these little gadgets that go by such quaint names as "passa", "soo soo", "suckie".
First thing to know is that giving your baby a pacifier to calm their crying is not just some "easy way out" "or "cheat" that you have to feel like you failed in calming your baby. In fact – haven’t you succeeded? Drop the mommy guilt. Think about it….. not only have you calmed your baby, you are probably calmer yourself and THAT is the big win in my opinion. After all, this is not some contest to win, there is no moral flaw here. If you think otherwise, pick up my book Breaking the Good Mom Myth.
Maybe you’ll feel better knowing that pacifiers are now officially recommended by the medical community. Pediatric research shows that pacifiers reduce the occurrence of SIDS in infants under the age of one but they recommend you only introduce the soother after breast feeding has been well established. So suck on baby!
That said – please use common sense here: don’t force a soother into a baby that rejects it. Please don’t sit beside the crib keeping some all night vigil of re-inserting the soother when it falls out because your baby has fallen asleep. And certainly don’t dip it into sweet sticky stuff to make it more appealing!
The other positive to consider about a soother sucking kid is that unlike a thumb – a pacifier can be tossed away when you think its time. Not so easy for thumb sucking tots that always have those lovely tasty digits as a constant temptation.
Moms worry their babes will get "addicted" or that it will slow their language development. They write me with concerns that the soother will misshape their soft palate. Worry worry worry – that is what moms like to do. Why put energy into problems you don’t even HAVE yet?
For those of you who can’t seem to let go of these concerns here are my thoughts:
- YOU decide when the pacifier has outlived its usefulness. If your tot is walking around the house pointing and grunting, I’d say its time to wean them. You can do this by limiting the use of the pacifier to only being when they are in bed. If they want the pacifier in the day – let them know they can have it - but only if they enjoy it in their bed. Most children will prefer to be social than to want to lie down and suck – but it is their choice to make. If they need the soothing, the option is still available.
- People have shared great stories with me about how that last pacifier got disposed of. We seem to have adopted the tooth fairy and santa claus, maybe we need to invent the "soother kangaroo" or something and all get on the same page creatively. When was the last time something like that got invented? Its time isn’t it? My nephew gave his to the garbage man in a lovely ceremony. Its up to you, but the idea is to set a firm date and stick to it without waffling or turning back. If you do, you will only be inviting misbehavior as children discover that by demanding (crying / whining) hard enough that they can get you to give them their beloved pacifier again.
- Soft palates take a LONG time to shift. Sucking is normal and expected and doesn’t create any issues for children under the age of 5years. If you are really concerned, take your child to the dentist for a check up instead of – oh – WORRYING. Its gotta be an extreme case of sucking for years before you’ll see a mouth deformity.
If there is a dentist reading this – please chime in with your comments in the readers comment area below.